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Anticipating Luis Guillorme’s everyday opportunity upon his IL return

The utility infielder will have the chance to prove he can be more than a bench player.

New York Mets v Miami Marlins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

After missing the entire month of May due to an oblique strain, Luis Guillorme was finally all set to begin a minor league rehab assignment in Syracuse on Thursday, with the goal being for him to be back with the major league team towards the end of next week. This being a rehab assignment for a member of the 2021 New York Mets, of course something had to go wrong, as his first game back was rained out. It is also possible he will suffer a mysterious “not a setback” setback the same way that so many other players have done this year, but if we want to take the optimistic view and believe that the Mets’ timeline for his return is accurate, then Guillorme will be a much-needed reinforcement for this beleaguered first place team.

Assuming no other injuries befall the team between now and then—and assuming Jonathan Villar’s hamstring issue does not result in an IL trip for him—the most likely outcome is that Guillorme will become the everyday second baseman, at least until J.D. Davis and/or Jeff McNeil come back. And given how their rehabs have gone, it may be a while before that happens. Jose Peraza has served in that role since McNeil went down, and he has served about as well as one could reasonably have expected him to. He’s hit a couple of homers, and his defense has been solid, but his overall 79 wRC+ in 2021 is pretty much in-line with who he is as a player: someone you can live with as a bench option, but not someone who should be starting for any prolonged period of time.

In fairness, we don’t necessarily know that Guillorme is any better. The difference is that over the past year, the bat-catching, facial hair-rocking infielder has shown some potential that he could be a legitimate major league option if given the opportunity.

Guillorme’s overall rep has been pretty consistent ever since he’s been in the minors: he’s always been a slick-fielding defensive player who could control the bat pretty well, but would struggle to hit for any meaningful amount of power. While he has more or less lived up to those expectations since he’s been in the majors, he has also shown noted improvement in each year when he’s gotten the chance to play. He went from a 52 wRC+ in 35 games in 2018, for instance, to an 87 wRC+ in 45 games—still nothing to write home about, of course, but enough to demonstrate potential to at least be a suitable bench player in the big leagues.

In the shortened 2020 season, however, he showed even more potential by putting up a 144 wRC+ in 30 games, and he was continuing last year’s success before he went down this year, as he had put up a 147 wRC+ in 15 games played. Those numbers were likely juiced by some BABIP luck (.463 in 2020 and .353 in 2021), but going solely by the eye test, he did seem to have an idea of what he was doing at the plate in comparison to his previous seasons. All the while, he continued to demonstrate strong defense at multiple infield positions. It was certainly enough to make it so that one didn’t grimace when seeing him in the lineup, which—given how much grimacing we’ve done over the past few weeks at some of the lineups we’ve seen—is itself a cause for celebration.

Of course, all of those numbers amount to less than a season’s worth of games and plate appearances, so it is impossible to draw any sort of meaningful conclusions from any of them. And in trying to look at the advanced metrics to detect any suggestion that his 2020-2021 numbers might represent a long-term difference for him, I came up largely empty. The majority of his Statcast numbers (exit velocity, launch angle, xwOBA, etc.) show a lot of variance between all four of his major league seasons, without any particular trendline suggesting that his hitting the past two seasons is tangibly different. This tells us what we already knew: it is simply too small a sample for us to know.

Maybe his 2020/2021 production is just small sample size BABIP noise. Maybe pitchers will get a better handle on him the more they see him and he won’t have the skills necessary to make the needed adjustments. Maybe the lack of power will limit his ability to ever be more than a bench option. Still, we won’t know for sure until we see more of him. While Guillorme has not done enough to make us confident that he will be a suitable everyday option, he has done enough to inspire our curiosity to see what he will do with more opportunities And every now and then these types of players who folks tend to write off as bench/Quadruple A guys will surprise us. After all, most of us probably assumed for so long that Tomas Nido was just another in a long line of crappy backup Mets catchers. But he showed some flashes of being more than that in recent times, and now that he’s gotten more opportunities to play in 2021 he’s given us hope that he may indeed have a brighter future in store for him.

Will Luis Guillorme do the same thing? Maybe, maybe not. But at the very least, he can hopefully provide better overall production than Jose Peraza has done, and the Amazins need all the help they can get at this point until more of their big bats return. And if he does take the everyday opportunity he is given and runs with it, it will give the Mets a lot to think about as far as how they might best utilize him moving forward.